Supreme Court Case Could Impact Laredo Bus Crash Victims
LAREDO – A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision could affect victims of last year’s fatal Laredo bus crash.
Nine people from the Rio Grande Valley were killed. And more than 40 others were injured on their way to Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass.
McAllen attorney John David Franz is preparing arguments for a lawsuit filed against the bus company and the casino. Before a Supreme Court decision made Tuesday, he wasn’t optimistic the day in court would come.
The decision is over a fender bender that happened in Connecticut but could affect the much more serious Laredo bus crash from last May.
The Connecticut case was between an employee of a Native American casino and a couple he hit on an interstate highway.
The court ruled that tribal sovereign immunity does not apply to tribal employees as individuals. Meaning the case over the minor accident doesn’t have to be heard in tribal court.
It can be heard in a state court.
Franz represents many of the Laredo bus crash victims.
“My hope is that we will get our day in a state district court,” he said.
Franz said the decision opens the door for his clients to hold the bus driver and trip coordinator in the case accountable for the crash.
“They were acting as authorized agents of the casino when they transported the many people who were injured or killed in this crash,” he said.
Franz said he’s paying close attention to the concurring opinions.
Supreme Court Justice Thomas said that “tribal immunity does not extend to suits arising out of a tribe’s commercial activities conducted beyond its territory.”
The Laredo bus crash wasn’t on tribal land.
It could take changes in the law, or another Supreme Court decision, for the tribe to be liable in state and federal court.
Another concurring opinion on the case from Justice Ginsberg states that “tribe interacting with non-tribal members outside reservation boundaries should be subject to non-discriminatory state laws.”
Victims of the Laredo bus crash are also waiting to find out whether they will get any compensation from the bus company involved.
OGA charters had $5 million worth of insurance money. That amount is currently frozen by a federal bankruptcy court judge.
The judge has to decide whether the insurance money is an asset of the estate of OGA charters.
If it is, it can then be divided among the victims. However, the $5 million won’t come close to covering the medical costs for the many victims.
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